The latest rumor floating around in the Camping World Truck Series garage is that NASCAR may reduce the schedule from 25 races to 21 or 22 races.
If that's true, it would be a shame, and it would do more harm to the series than good.
The one positive result from reducing the number of races is that it would save owners money. After all, the economy is not showing any real signs of getting better soon, and sponsorship is tough to come by. It makes sense that they would want to explore making this change.
Now the bad. The downside would be more weeks off between races. This could ultimately affect new fan growth, cause current fans to lose interest, or cause the die-hards to just tune out.
Maybe it would be smarter for the Powers That Be to just tweak the schedule.
First, get rid of the Fontana truck race. It never sells out and it's the only race on the schedule that basically sucks. But more importantly, it would save the owners from the costs of having to travel across the country to race.
Then, add Darlington to the schedule as the second race and approach ARCA about pairing up and having them add a race, as they run Daytona. Then, have six weeks off before the next race.
Why not pair races at tracks like Memphis, Nashville, Gateway, or Kentucky up with the Nationwide Series and give the fans a doubleheader, rather than have just one race at a time?
It's win-win for everybody. The races together would sell out because more fans would attend both rather than one or the other.
Both the tracks and NASCAR would make money from the move. And really, that's all they care about. They'd also be able to increase purse wins, or at least they should.
Now, we may see the Milwaukee Mile gone, but that could change depending on if NASCAR likes the new promoters or if NASCAR gets paid.
Another track in jeopardy of losing its race is Memphis Motorsports Park, due to its pending sale by Dover Motorsports. But I seriously doubt the sale will happen because we're talking $10 million, and twice they've given extensions to closing.
My big worry with this news is that the Truck series will go the way of the Whelen's Modified Series's or the Camping World Series East and West, has with having its schedule whittled down to nothing by continued yearly race reductions by NASCAR.
The following quote is from Ron Hornaday, Jr. It basically explains the original intention of the series, and how far it's come. As a fan, I couldn't say it any better:
"When the Truck series started, they called it the stepping grounds to get your feet wet, to learn the radial tires, learn the different tracks, learn the pit stops, to move onto a different series," Hornaday said.
"What the Truck series has done in the last 15 years, it has made its own identity. Now it's a stand alone."
It's also created a mix of young talent that will move on up the ladder to Cup—Matt Crafton and Rick Crawford have found a home in the series—and a mix of wily veterans that have raced in all three series.
It's a mix of small teams and some bigger teams, with some better funded than others. But the product they deliver is some of the best racing in NASCAR right now. And yes, it's better than the Cup on any given weekend it races.
Even with the current schedule, the big hurdle has been with popularity, awareness of the series, and with all the breaks without a race.
It's tough, as a Truck series fan, to have those off weekends, but I usually try to get the yard work done. And if I watch the Cup race, it makes me miss the Trucks even more.
Heck, I'd love to see NASCAR make a 36-race schedule for Trucks with fewer off weekends. I'd be like a kid in the candy aisle being told to pick out a treat for being a good boy at the grocery store. But I don't expect we'll ever see that happen.
While some media experts feel the series is hurt by not having a set schedule, were the series races on one set day either a day or night race.
It doesn't matter to me that some races are Friday evening, others are Saturday afternoon or evening, and that there's even a Wednesday night race at Bristol.
I just set my weekend around the Truck race. And if it means sacrificing watching the Nationwide or Cup races, so be it. I get to watch the series with the best racing, and that's all that's important to me.
The 2010 Kansas Truck race will be held on a Sunday, May 2, which is a pretty cool deal, and believe I read that Cup is off that day.
The bottom line is that any reduction in the schedule would be a big mistake. The series would be hurt by the long layoffs—six weeks at times—between races, and it would be even harder for the owners to sell sponsorship to potential companies.
Even worse, we wouldn't see the continued new fan growth that Trucks have achieved this year, and fans would just lose interest or just stop watching.
Maybe tweaking the schedule, pairing the series more with the Nationwide Series, would be smarter.
What would be even better would be to start actually marketing the series. Put money into the series to make it better, increase purses by using a percentage of what the sanction body gets from its many sponsorships, and then share TV profits with the team owners.
I just think all these ideas could make NASCAR better, and maybe down the road, it could add races to the Camping World Truck Series.
Right now, NASCAR is missing a golden opportunity to get some free advertising for the series.
Ron Hornaday, Jr. just completed the drive for five at Nashville, something we haven't seen done in 38 years, and it's a shame he's not on every NASCAR show, or that we're being bombarded with video clips of his achievement like we were when Rowdy smashed the Sam Bass Gibson or took pot shots at Junior and his fans.
Don't tell me he didn't race anybody, or Rowdy only raced at ORP but he really dominated only one race. He out-lasted the next big thing in Cup, Brian Scott, in two races and earned a couple of hard-fought wins against his arch rival, Mike Skinner.
And regarding the cheating thing, it was actually a manufacturer error. It wasn't a piece altered in the KHI shop, and NASCAR handled the penalty fairly.
Now this is just my opinion, but why would NASCAR even think of reducing the schedule?
The sanctioning body doesn't want to see its red-headed stepchild grow bigger and bypass its favorite Sprint Cup Series or its money-making series, but unfortunately, it doesn't realize that it's already happened.
Then again, the Trucks, even with all their hurdles, have overcome and still put out the most competitive race week in and week out.
It reminds me of that 1980s U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Hurdler Edwin Moses. No matter who he ran against and how much competition he faced, he just couldn't be beaten.
NASCAR just needs to suck it up. Having competition for Cup is a good thing, and tweaking the Trucks to make it stronger, faster, and better would be beneficial.
Author's notes: source for the quotes from Horn are scenedaily.com, the idea for the article came from Ray Dunlap's opinion piece, Tighter Truck Schedule and up next, Five Ways to Improve the Truck Series.
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